Sheriff deputies shot a man in a remote, clandestine marijuana garden near the Santa Clara-Santa Cruz county line just before noon Thursday, prompting a massive manhunt in the mountains for the shooting victim and a second suspect, Santa Clara County Sheriff Sgt. Jose Cardoza said.
The shooting victim, described as a Latino man, turned himself into authorities later in the afternoon. He had been shot once in the arm, a wound Cardoza described as non life-threatening.
The unsuccessful search for his accomplice stretched until nightfall Thursday near Mount Madonna County Park, off Highway 152. Cardoza said dozens of sheriff's deputies from Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties, as well as California Highway Patrol officers, were involved in the effort.
The incident began Thursday morning when a team of deputies assigned to the Santa Clara County Marijuana Enforcement Team and state Department of Fish and Game officers hiked to a remote garden to count and remove the illegal marijuana grow, Cardoza said.
The team set out around 6 a.m. for a location about an hour's hike south of Highway 152 near Whitehurst Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.
"There were some shots that were fired at 11:45 a.m.," Cardoza said.
Two deputies opened fire on two Latino men in the marijuana grow. Multiple shots were fired and one man was struck once, according to Cardoza.
"Some of our law enforcement personnel did shoot," Cardoza said.
It's unclear what prompted the shooting. Later, deputies recovered two rifles in the garden but Cardoza said he did not know if the two men were armed with the guns at the time of the shooting.
"They're not going to shoot someone for no reason," he said.
The two men fled.
No law enforcement officers were injured when the shots were fired.
The shooting was initally reported around 12:30 p.m. near the Mt. Madonna Inn, just west of the county divide in Santa Cruz County, according to deputy April Skalland of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's SWAT Team found the injured suspect just south of the garden Thursday afternoon. He was arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana and taken to a regional hospital for treatment. Cardoza declined to identify the man, except to say he is Latino.
Investigators also have yet to sort out if he was the gunshot victim reported to 9-1-1.
The second suspect from the marijuana garden remained on the lam Thursday afternoon. Two law enforcement helicopters flew over the heavily wooded area searching for him and teams of deputies hiked into the chaparral forest to search for him. The area is thick with dry grass, poison oak, manzanitas and oak trees.
“It started as an eradication operation, now it's turned into a crime scene,” Cardoza said.
Cardoza did not have information about the size of the marijuana grow or how authorities located it.
The Santa Cruz Mountains, especially southwest-facing slopes historically have been popular areas for illegal marijuana gardens. Summer is the time when law enforcement steps up patrols of those areas and cuts down the grows they can find.